Monday, May 13, 2013

Planting Tomatoes

I have on purpose stayed away from writing about tomatoes because there is such a variety of them and as many different ways of planting and growing them.  Here at the Back Forty, we have a few favorites, too.

To linger on the porch, close to the kitchen, there are tomatoes specifically for the porch.  They are called patio tomatoes.  They may be grown in pots or raised boxes.  The Cherry Tomato also does well on the porch and usually produce an abundance of fruit.

There are the heirloom tomatoes, true and tried, that have been developed over decades and passed down from generation to generation.  Some gardeners grow them for the historical values and others for their many different sizes, color, and taste.  Other people like to save their seeds for the next planting.  They are not as disease resistant as the commercial tomatoes.

From the Decorah Newspaper in Iowa, I have more or less copied the following:  An interesting heirloom tomato is the German Pink brought to America in 1883 by a Mr. Whaley's great-great grandparents. The German Pink was one of two original varieties that inspired the founding of Seed Savers Exchange in 1975 by Whaley's parents.  Seeds from this tomato was put in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway and they were happy that this tomato made it back across the Atlantic.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault functions like the ultimate safety deposit box for biodiversity and global food supply preservation.  The vault rooms have been carved inside a mountain down a 125-yard long tunnel chiseled out of solid stone.  Please, visit for more information.

We planted 'Celebrity,' not a heirloom, one season and were disappointed in this cultivar.  It produced an abundance of tomatoes at one time and after harvesting, that was the end of the growing season for this plant.

We usually plant 'Beefsteak,' Big Boy,' and 'Better Boy' which are large and juicy.  They keep producing until the heat of the summer.  We tie these tomatoes up around wooden stakes.  Sometimes we use the metal cages but have found that the tomato vines break because of the sharp wires.  Staking is beneficial in that it does keep the branches and leaves off the soil preventing diseases.  This is particular true if it is a wet season.

We have found that using fertilizer especially made for tomatoes work the best when following direction provided on the package.  It seems that most gardeners like to add fertilizer at the time they are transplanting the tomatoes to the garden.  I prefer to let the tomatoes get over the shock of transplanting, start growing, and then adding a balanced fertilizer.

Sometimes the tomatoes have a tendency to split on the vine.  This has nothing to do with the fertilizer but too much watering or too much rain.  The fruit is expanding too rapidly and the skin splits because it can't keep up with the growth.

It is a good idea to look out for side shoots that form between the stems and the branches.  If the suckers are left alone, the plant becomes too dense limiting air flow.

When the tomato plants have stopped blooming and producing, pull the vines, bag them, and dispose of them with your yard waste.  Do not put this debris in your compost pile.  Nematodes have a tendency to attack the root system and they are transferable.  Nematodes are those invisible pests that will knot up the roots and thus prevent nutrients from reaching the plant.

You may not be the only one waiting for that first tomato to ripen.  Here at the Back Forty, we have the Florida box turtle as a common guest that will devour that ripe tomato in a short time.  That's OK; we share.

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